BS8596 – Surveying for Bats in Woodland

Published in October 2015, BS8596 is a comprehensive guide to surveying woodlands through to single trees for the presence of bats. This standard flows from the considered risk of tree operations on this part of the European Protected Species (EPS) family, and aims to give confidence to managers and surveyors alike as to a reasonable approach to detecting bat presence in planning tree works. It must be appreciated that BS8596 is a Guide, and not a Code of Practice or Standard.

In England, it is the Good Practice Guides for woodland based EPS prepared by Natural England and the Forestry Commission  which guides the risk based approach to determining where surveys are required in woodland in the first instance. These guides are pragmatic, aiming to clarify the responsibility of forestry practitioners and reduce the potential need for specialist surveying by recommending adherence to best practice, and sensible planning. The Good Practice Guides also clearly outline where surveying should be considered and the circumstances where licences may need to be applied for.

As such, the key document for Woodland Managers in England remains the EPS Good Practice Guides and the decision-support checklist hosted by the Forestry Commission. BS8596 has not overhauled this guidance, nor superseded its recommendations. It can be considered and treated as a supporting tool for land managers and owners should a bat survey be required.

Case Study:

Nicholsons manages a mature ancient woodland in Buckinghamshire which holds a particularly rare woodland-specialist bat: – the Bechsteins. Whilst having the benefit of knowing where a small number of roost sites were, it could not be assumed that all roosts had been identified whilst planning an upcoming thinning and selective felling operation. In the circumstances, a 2 hour walkover survey identified the trees with the most likely roots  – woodpecker holes, which are  protected by securing the immediate surrounding trees, and maintaining an appropriately stable habitat.. It is reasonable to suggest that standard silvicultural thinning practice cannot be feasible in these circumstances, but equally the areas for selective felling and surrounding them held no concerns for disturbance, and no adjustments had to be made. The presence of the Bechsteins bat indicates a healthy landscape with strong interconnectivity between the woodlands, and ample food supply – a credit to the surrounding land management of the Estate and its tenant farmer.

This operation shows how even with a sensitive species, sensible and pragmatic steps outlined in the Good Practice Guide can negate the need for complex surveys or licensing. Having identified the species presence in preparing the woodland management plan, the woodland works prescription was realistic, but emphasised that appropriate thinning and felling work continued to secure the next generation of trees across this woodland.

At Nicholsons we offer a bespoke service to meet your requirements. Our Arboricultural Team, supported by professional Tree Surgery and Forestry staff are experienced, NPTC certified and fully equipped to ensure an optimal service is provided. If you would like to enquire further about our BS5387 surveys, please email the team at We also provide a full Tree Surgery, Tree Safety Surveys & Inspection service, operating throughout Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties and will consider jobs further afield dependent on the scale and nature of the work.

BS8596 - Surveying for Bats in Woodland
BS8596 - Surveying for Bats in Woodland
BS8596 - Surveying for Bats in Woodland

Our Blogger

Colin Finlay has been managing and creating new woodlands with Nicholsons since 2010.  With a background in biodiversity, and the more mundane sounding grants & regulations with the Forestry Commission, his natural incline is to make woodland management approachable and understandable.  The enjoyment comes in supporting landowners; not just in terms of day to day management, but also making meaningful improvements to their woodlands through conservation and diversification projects.

BS8596 - Surveying for Bats in Woodland